Friday, August 31, 2018

when they say you'll do great things


Bath soap and a thank you? Are you kidding me?

My teenage indignation was so thick it could be reached for and thrown (into my dad's face as my verbal assault was affectively doing).

It'd started six years prior.

Sitting on dusty, wooded windowsills in northern parkas in the church basement in the soon-to-become youth room, we were choosing a name. From seeing, in the bare room, a yellow ball randomly labeled BLUE, I'd effectively named the youth group at age thirteen and did not know what else I was going to be called on to do.

I was happy to do a lot of it a lot of the time. Arriving over an hour early, plugging in my jet black guitar, finding myself as the first example in the human sundae ice-breaker and the last to finish cleaning up.

I'd spent life in youth group where I was a few months younger than my friends, my friends who got to be in the big kids group while I was the old one of the young group, called out to answer the questions, share personal stories, and give examples of my sin while everyone was quiet. Needing help myself but not being able to help myself by opening up because what I said reflected back on my dad, reflected on me the example, reflected on my mom trying to counsel this woman who was supposed to be leading us.

Welcome to the life of a pastor's kid.

Bath soap and a thank you.

I'd come home from youth group graduation. My puma shorts now rested on the laminate countertops as my words rang out.

They'd handed my sister and I each matching soap and small trinket baskets and said thank you for what we've done. Although they'd given sagas about two other girls who were leaving a few weeks prior, they said a simple thank you and how they believed in us.

I was beside myself.

"Dad, when have they come up to me and ask me how I'm actually doing? They assume I'm fine, so they don't invest in me like everyone else. They just have me lead."

I'd have various rants like these with one of the parents almost every week. Painful. For me, yes. For them, probably more so as I realize since the years have past. Don't get me wrong, I deeply love the people in my church. They've done so much for me and my family, and I was a very strong-willed teenager who didn't see things clearly. This is very much a reflection on how, in my worst moments, I perceived their actions. But this is still what I would feel, even if I would blow it out of proportion.

What my anger fed from those counter-sitting days would later feed off what was apparently deeper inside me.

The $14 H&M creme dress constrained my legs even as the black thin belt snugged against my waist. I was sitting with hand-pottered, deep purple mugs with my college's insignia plastered across. Sitting as a student among two other people with power.

One said it first: Deborah is a force. The second agreed.

I appreciated it. Really, it means a lot. But in that moment, the weight of being a force, being able to lead, being believed in felt more like a burden than a gift.

You look at me and smile. 
You had me soap and tell me I'll do great things.
You nod and say I'm going somewhere.

But who will go with me?

Forward more months, and the tan-white tiles hit my feet even as the Audible words hit my ears. One summer ago, words from the dad had slid into my heart as John Piper's Desiring God had come to change my perception. Now, Barnabas Piper's words came through:

"One of the greatest defense mechanisms a PK can develop is the ability to sound good without risking or revealing anything of substance... We learn to answer questions and deflect probing without exposing ourselves... Making people laugh or a play on words is a perfect deflection of the topic at hand" 

The tile beneath my feet soon slid into rug carpet as I felt the tears well and my knees grow weak. The ability to sound good without revealing. The ability to read people and respond without letting them in.

I thought I was vulnerable. Who shares their sin with a group of strangers? I thought I welcoming people in. How often did people come stay in my home as they are passing through, sheltered by the pastor's family?

But B. Pipe's words ring more:

"Relationships are built on authenticity and trust, two component missing from the political PK"

Authenticity and trust.

I'd been sitting on the floor of a small room at what would become my first real job. I was facing the prospect of having to walk into the same building day after day after day to see the same people and build relationship with them. To really have them... know me. To really have to... trust me, and let myself trust them.

I'd been sitting across from four new friends, burgers on plates, avoiding the three questions that triggered immediate judgments: my age, my dad's job, my high school. I was looking at them, they who voted me with the superlatives most likely to be president and to rule the world but about whom I wondered. What would it really be like to have them... know me. To really have them... trust me, and let myself trust them.

I've been known of, a lot. The pastor's kid. The person in this leadership. The (fill in the blank). But to be truly known?

"Perhaps the greatest risk any of us will ever take is to be seen as we truly are" (cinderella)

I'd hide when I'd start to be known. I'd try to shape what people thought they knew of me. But maybe my first mistake was seeking to be known for who I am before learning to rest in (and not just know) whose I am.

"For, in the first place, no man can survey himself without forthwith turning his thoughts toward the God in whom he lives and moves; because it is perfectly obvious, that the endowments which we possess cannot possibly be from ourselves; no, that our very being is nothing else than subsistence in God alone" (john calvin, the institutes, 1.1)

Subsistence in God alone. In Christ, alone.

I just finished FaceTiming with a college roommate, hearing how much the campus is not the same, reminiscing of our cow-sock late night sprinkler runs across the MN green. Thinking of all the things I did do and things I wish I would have, of the fine balance of confidence and caution I had tread.

I pulled up an ancient video once I ended the call. She was in her giraffe footie pajamas she never actually wore, and we were fully embracing our girlhood as we changed the lyrics to a T Swizzle song.

What I saw was a girl struggling to become a woman. A girl projecting more confidence than she felt, a girl who only few could see through to her insecure core and desire for affirmation and love she didn't even know she was searching to have. A girl who wanted to trust but who didn't know how. A girl who wanted to embrace who she was made to be but who did not understand that-to embrace who she was made to be-meant losing herself in the embrace of a Savior, in the knowledge of God where she finds who she is.

Subsistence in God alone. In Christ, alone.

"One thing I ask from the Lord. This only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple" (psalm 27.4)

Only when we look to the face of Jesus in the truth of His word do we see the depths of how much we need Him, that He is holy and we are not.

"We have, in our day, started by getting the whole picture upside down, starting with the doctrine that every individuality is of infinite value. We then picture God as a kind of employment committee whose business it is to find suitable careers for souls, square holes for square pegs. In fact, however, the value of the individual does not lie in him. He is capable of receiving value. He receives it by union with Christ... We are through and through creatures not creators, derived beings living not from ourselves but from Christ." (cs lewis)

If I am called to lead when somedays I would prefer to do anything but, so be it.
If I am called to follow faithfully alone, so be it.
If I must struggle through what it means to trust, to be truly vulnerable, to have to learn to let people in, then so be it.

For I'm seeing more and more that we all have burdens to bear, but we are always living bare in our need before the One who is All-Sufficient.

I need only to need Him more.

To learn that to trust others, I must first learn to be hidden in trust in Him.
To receive love from others, I must find what it means to be filled with love from Him.
To let people in, I must let in the truth that it is about dying daily to my sin and living to Christ and that joy unfolded is within surrender to the plan of all plans.

So be it, for He is, was, and is to come.
© 2018 Deborah  Spooner
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